God-Soaked World Bible Guide – Day 9
March 14, 2017
Tuesday, March 14 – I Samuel 3:1-18
3 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.
2 At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; 3 the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. 4 Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said, “Here I am!” 5 and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. 6 The Lord called again, “Samuel!” Samuel got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. 8 The Lord called Samuel again, a third time. And he got up and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 11 Then the Lord said to Samuel, “See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle. 12 On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. 13 For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. 14 Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.”
15 Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the Lord. Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli. 16 But Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.” He said, “Here I am.” 17 Eli said, “What was it that he told you? Do not hide it from me. May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.” 18 So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him. Then he said, “It is the Lord; let him do what seems good to him.”
Points of Interest:
- Samuel is the son born to Hannah, in answer to her prayers. As Hannah promised, she has dedicated his life to God, so much so that Hannah’s son is enrolled in an unofficial temple boarding school, apprenticed to Eli, the temple’s chief priest.
- The narrator tells us that even folks in the temple aren’t experiencing their world as God-soaked. They don’t hear God talk to them, and God isn’t showing them anything.
- All this changes in an instant, and it’s pretty darn funny when it happens. Eli can’t see well, and Samuel can’t hear. Well, it turns out he can hear God, but he doesn’t know that it’s God. And God doesn’t do anything to clarify things. Samuel – who’s never heard God – has to rely on Eli – who’s also probably never heard God speak – tell him what to do when God’s trying to get his attention. A not especially spiritual man uses the best of his learning and spiritual tradition to interpret Samuel’s first spiritual experience.
- Eli’s advice is pretty good, isn’t it? When you think God might be talking to you, don’t self-edit or judge the experience. Just tell God you’re paying attention.
- Samuel’s first sense of God’s word to him in prayer is a tough word. God tells him the juicy news that the members of Eli’s household aren’t fit to be priests and are going down. Wise people have advised that when we feel like God is showing us something bad that’s going to happen to someone else, we should keep that to ourselves and pray for the people involved. And this is exactly what Samuel does, until he’s pressured and threatened by Eli to spill the beans.
- After Eli’s not particularly admirable pressure, he greets Samuel’s revelation with an admirable lack of defensiveness. He doesn’t dismiss Samuel and figures God’s going to do what God’s going to do, so why fight it? Whatever Eli’s faults as a parent or spiritual leader, the passage begins and ends with some admirable testimony about him as a teacher and mentor.
Taking It Home:
- Spiritual Exercise – We can assume that the greats of the Bible heard from God so much more clearly than we can. But even for them, the process required faith, patience, and learning and could be accompanied by some amount of confusion and anxiety. In this light, we give you an invitation to listen to God’s voice to you today. Take a few minutes in quiet and stillness and invite God to communicate to you. Imagine God calling you by name twice as God did with Samuel, and say, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” See if you feel or perceive anything unexpected. Take note of that. Tell somebody appropriate.
- Prayer for church – Pray that your church would be an environment in which people trust God to speak to them personally and have the courage and faith to respond to God, with both humility and boldness.